Who’s Who: Viann Nguyen-Feng, PhD

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Viann Nguyen-Feng, PhD

1) What is your current occupation?
Currently (as of this past August…), I serve as core faculty in the Department of Psychology’s counseling/clinical master’s program at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.  I head the Mind-Body Trauma Care Lab and teach Multicultural Foundations, Personality and Diagnostic Assessment, and Psychology as a Discipline and Profession.  Every day is different, and I love it.

2) Where were you educated?  
Most of my schooling covers the two states in which I was born and raised: Maryland and Virginia.  However, I found my way to the Midwest to pursue a counseling psychology PhD on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus.  My positive experiences in Minnesota, the university as well as the state, have led me to stay.

3) Why did you choose this field? 
Service as a professor in the field of trauma psychology is the best combination of everything the third-grade version of me wanted to be “when I grew up”: an author, a teacher, a doctor, and a detective.  Because inclusivity is the core underlying value that drives me, I was first drawn to work in public health and then to counseling and trauma psychology.  I wonder about those who feel unseen, those who hurt others, those who hurt emotionally and physically, and how all these overlapping groups may access the best, holistic mental health care.

4) What is most rewarding about this work for you?
The best part is seeing when my teaching and research directly connect to others’ lives.  I don’t want my teaching and research simply to be intellectual exercises (for me or others) but lived experiences from which individuals can readily benefit.  Because I see learning about oneself as a necessary precursor to learning about and serving others, it’s rewarding to watch “lightbulb” moments when students’ self- and other-awareness meet.  My hope is that students can take what they’ve learned and apply it to their own lives and the lives of those they encounter.  Similarly, because I tend towards community-based and interventional research, I feel lucky that part of my work allows me foster interpersonal connections with some amazing organizations and people.

5) What is most frustrating about your work?  
The most frustrating part of this work may be acknowledging and accepting that there are things in which we may never truly know—but that doesn’t mean we have to stop seeking the answers.

6) How do you keep your life in balance (i.e., what are your hobbies)?  
Each day, I try to create space for me to be active as well as still.  To integrate activeness into my day, I commute via walking, biking, or “hiking” (there’s a sliver of the Superior Hiking Trail near me)—I might try snowshoe commuting this winter!  To integrate stillness into my day, I created a Zen room in my home, just a simple place to sit, reflect, and be.

7) What are your future plans?
Broadly, I hope to be part of the revolutionary discourse that is part of trauma psychology’s future.  There are deeper policy and practice changes that can be made in the areas of mind-body interventions, emotional trauma, access to care, and more—and I seek to be a part of those conversations.